Espoo, Finland — Alex Rigsby stopped four of five shots in a shootout and the United States beat Finland, 2-1, on Sunday night for its fifth consecutive gold medal at the women’s world championship.
The U.S. won after a questionable goaltender interference review wiped out what would have been a historic overtime goal for the Finns.
Finland celebrated on home ice after Petra Nieminen scored on a rebound 11:33 into overtime, but officials spent more than 10 minutes reviewing the play before disallowing the goal for goalie interference and forcing players to pick up their equipment and resume the game. Fans who chanted “Suomi!” and waved blue and white flags throughout the game and erupted into jubilation after Nieminen appeared to score rained boos down on the Americans when they were given their medals.
“I’m extremely proud of our team tonight for playing their game while emotions were running high, in a loud building and against a team that played us incredibly hard,” U.S. coach Bob Corkum said. “It’s been an honor to coach this team.”
This was already a first for Finland, which pulled a stunning upset of Canada in the semifinals Saturday behind 43 saves from Noora Raty. The U.S. and Canada had met in each of the previous 28 world championship finals dating to the first in 1990.
Finland was close to winning gold on home ice. Even after Nieminen’s goal was disallowed for captain Jenni Hiirikoski making contact with Rigsby just outside the crease, the U.S. had to kill off two Finland power plays in overtime of a thrilling game.
“This is the best Finnish team we’ve ever seen,” said Rigsby, who made 26 saves before the shootout started and then denied Michelle Karvinen, Ronja Savolainen, Nieminen and Susanna Tapani to extend the Americans’ gold-medal streak that dates to 2015.
Amanda Kessel and Annie Pankowski scored in the shootout against Raty, the best goaltender in the world, who made 50 saves in regulation and overtime. Pankowski scored the Americans’ only goal in regulation in the second period, and Susanna Tapani answered 1:43 later for Finland.
Canada routed Russia 7-0 in the bronze-medal game earlier Sunday.
Controversy aside, this final was reminiscent in entertainment value and ending to the gold-medal game between the U.S. and Canada at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang. That game also went through overtime and into a shootout with Maddie Rooney in goal for the U.S. when it beat Canada for the country’s first women’s hockey Olympic gold medal since 2002.